Always Be Selling Internally Makes so Much Sense for Content Marketing

This brand marketing riff on “always be closing” shared by Joe Pulizzi is the best thing I heard at Content Marketing World.
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Sell internally. Never stop. Never.

That’s my No. 1 takeaway from this year’s Content Marketing World, and it came as the very first piece of advice for attendees from Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi himself.

The vibrant #CMWorld community of passionate practitioners, excited to share their craft and inspire innovation, is one of the reasons I love to attend the Cleveland event. I always come away energized, having learned a thing or two. This year was no exception.

That “always be selling internally” learning really reinforced my thinking about the need to have and keep buy-in.

Why It’s Important to Sell Content Marketing Internally

Pulizzi referred to this need to sell in content marketing as “The Law of They Have No Clue What You’re Doing,” and this law applies to us all. A perpetual campaign to educate leadership and stakeholders on the value your content marketing program delivers for the organization is an absolute must.

But what is that value? It’s a question that we are used to having to answer daily as content marketers. It’s a question tied directly to what your target audience values. In this case, your bosses and colleagues are your audience.

What Your Bosses Need to Know About Content Marketing

When I say bosses, I mean leadership—and probably not your direct manager. Let’s hope your manager understands the intricacies of your job and is your supporter, advocate and collaborator in driving value for your organization and in communicating it. I realize that isn’t always the case and if this does not reflect your reality, I’d start there. But assuming your direct manager is on board, here’s what her bosses are probably asking:

1. Is our content marketing driving sales efficiently?

At the end of the day, your leadership doesn’t and shouldn’t care about page views, engagements, bounce rates or subscriptions (or any number of other KPIs we hold near and dear and use daily, as data-driven content marketers, to do a kickass job at content marketing). It’s not about that.

It’s about marketing, and marketing is about sales. Unless you can demonstrate how your content marketing initiatives are making the company money, don’t expect senior leadership to be overly impressed or invested (literally and philosophically) in the success of your program. You need to help solve a sales challenge or help make the sales process frictionless. (My colleague Meg Conlan covered this really well here.)

When you accomplish this, make sure you tell your bosses. Better yet, show them with a beautifully designed PowerPoint complete with what I like to call an “account guy chart” that shows activity going up and to the right.

2. Is it making us look better than our competition?

Contributing to the bottom line is a tangible, practical way to demonstrate the value of content marketing to leadership. But how do we really get our bosses on board? How do we get them excited about our program? Making your competition look like a bunch of amateurs tends to do the trick.

If you can show how your efforts are positioning the company as the leading voice in your industry or the innovative disruptor revolutionizing something or other, it will resonate. Even if you can show that your social media manager made a hilarious Twitter joke at your rival’s expense (bosses like this kind of engagement) or maybe helped sell a bazillion chicken sandwiches, you’ll have a good shot at winning your bosses’ hearts and making them care.

If you have a handy one-sheet your boss can forward to show her boss what an incredible job the team is doing without having to do much work to make it happen, that’s a good one too.

The Content Marketing Story to Share with Your Stakeholders

By stakeholders, I mean colleagues. And when I say colleagues, I’m talking about everyone at your organization, not just within your department. Let’s go with the same benevolent assumption that the people you work with directly know what you do and why what you do is a good thing. That’s probably true.

What’s definitely true is that the vast majority of your colleagues outside of the marketing department don’t have a nuanced understanding of the value content marketing can deliver for your business and for them. How do I know? Did you see any of these colleagues at #CMWorld2019 in Cleveland? OK, then.

1. Is it making my job better or easier?

Even if people in your organization understand that content marketing is directly contributing to the bottom line and ultimately to the business’s success, they aren’t necessarily moved by this alone.

You get the real buy-in when they start to realize that your content marketing strategy is helping them break down silos that make their jobs harder than they need to be, or highlighting the amazing work they and their teams are doing. And don’t fake it.

Part of your job is making your colleagues’ jobs better and easier, whatever department you sit in and title you hold at your company. Right?

2. Is it a win for our organization, and are we sharing in the success?

When the company wins, we all win. That’s nice. What’s even nicer is when we all feel part of the win. Connecting the dots and breaking down silos is pretty much a job requirement for any effective content marketer at organizations small and large.

Clearly demonstrating how you’ve connected those dots while generously sharing the credit for the impact your work is having on the success of the business will win you a lot of fans and advocates.

Don’t assume they know all the cool stuff you’ve thought to integrate to make your campaign a success, and don’t think they know you continually sing their praises. Tell them. And for the love of god, don’t tell them in an email. Do it in person, like you mean it, and do it every single time you have the opportunity.

I love this #CMWorld community to which we all belong—and I love us. I want everyone we work with to love us too and to know how much our love for content marketing is making a real difference.

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